Louis Joseph, Comte D'anterroches, ca.1800
Louis joseph D'anterroches, Enseigne au 62e Regt, his signature from a 1777 letter fragment
Born: château de Puy Darnac, Limousin, France, 25 August 1753
Regimental commission dates:
Ensign, 21 November 1776
Captured: Battle of Freeman's Farm, 19 September 1777 (prisoner of war)
Died: Paris, France, 18 January 1814
Amongst the British officer corps in Lieutenant-General Burgoyne's Army from Canada was one Scottish earl, one English viscount, two Scottish barons, one English baronet…and one French chevalier. Ensign Louis Joseph, Chevalier D'anterroches's service in the 62nd Regiment is a rare example of a young foreign gentleman serving in the British Army officer corps (in a regiment other than the 60th or Royal American Regiment), made unique due to his noble French birth.
Louis Joseph was born at the château de Puy Darnac near Tulle in Limousin, France, to Jean-Pierre, Comte D'anterroches and Jeanne Françoise Tessier de Chaunac, Comtesse D'anterroches. As the second son born to the family, he was granted the noble title of “chevalier” and destined by his father to study for a career in the Roman Catholic Church. At the age of eight, he was sent to live with and study under his uncle, Alexandre-César D'anterroches, the Bishop of Condom. By age 15, Louis Joseph grew dissatisfied with his studies and developed a desire to serve in the military, but was instead sent to the University of Paris, where he became acquainted with Charles Maurice de Talleyrand in the seminary of St. Sulpice. By age 20, D'anterroches still desired to serve in the military but, finding his family (save his mother) completely opposed to the idea, he fled to England in June 1775. The young chevalier presented himself to the British government that summer, and in August was granted an allowance to join the British army as a volunteer with the 29th Regiment of Foot. After the termination of General Sir Guy Carleton's 1776 campaign, Chevalier D'anterroches received a free commission for the rank of Ensign in the 62nd Regiment of Foot on 21 November 1776. According to a 1777 letter fragment (Horatio Gates Papers) written in French by Louis Joseph, his commission was gained “by the recommendation of Lord Barrington [British Secretary at War] to General Carleton [British Commander-in-Chief in Canada].”
As an ensign in the 62nd Regiment, Chevalier D'anterroches participated in the Northern Campaign of 1777. He fought in the Battle of Freeman's Farm on 19 September, in which battle he was captured, unwounded. After being captured, according to Francis Bazley Lee in New Jersey as a Colony and as a State (Publishing Society of New Jersey, New York: 1902), the Chevalier:
…immediately asked for writing material and, communicating with his kinsman, Marquis de Lafayette, 'the two young Frenchmen were soon in each other's arms.' During the remainder of the Revolution the count, then known as 'the Chevalier,' seems to have been in the American lines, no doubt a prisoner on parole. His situation thus complicated was also embarrassing in that, while holding a commission in the British Army, his own county, France, had taken part with the Americans.
As with many other officers captured by the rebels during the course of the campaign who were fit for travel, D'anterroches and Mr. Maurice Spillard, an Assistant Deputy Commissary (the other officer captured in the Battle of Freeman's Farm, Ensign Levinge Cosby Phillips, having died of his wounds), were sent to Boston Harbor and placed aboard the "Kingston Guard Ship." A 12 October 1777 letter written to rebel Major General William Heath admitted to an understandable concern of the two prisoners (William Heath Papers):
The officer of the 62d Regiment and the Commissary that was made prisoners above Stillwater on the 19th of September last, being informed that there is some baggage on the way for some British officers prisoners at Boston; request you will be pleased to inform them if you have any advice from the honourable Major General Gates relative to their baggage; as they wrote to him from Albany to that purpose, at his request; at which time he was pleased to assure them their bagage should be forwarded——we are honoured Sir
Your honours most obedt
Mr D'antarroch Ensn 62d Regiment
Morris Spillard Commissary
Louis Joseph's whereabouts as a prisoner over the next few years are difficult to track. Thankfully, Lieutenant Thomas Hughes (53rd Regiment, and also a prisoner of war) recorded the names of his fellow British and German officer captives during travel to Rhode Island on parole. According to his 28 September 1778 journal entry (A Journal by Thos: Hughes. E A Benians, ed. Cambridge University Press: 1947):
As we have 60 miles to go before we embark—which is to be at a place near Providence [Rhode Island]—6 of us hired a Jersey wagon for which we pay a guinea pr head. Our company is Captains Davies and Lord of our Regt [53rd]; Chevalier d'Enterroches ensign of the 62nd Regt; Count Randsau a young German officer [Ensign Graf von Rantzau, Braunschweig light infantry battalion von Bärner]; an American girl who chooses to go with him, whom he calls Patty—and myself.
A letter from George Washington to John Beatty dated Head Quarters, 23 December 1779 (George Washington Papers) relayed an important update regarding the ensign's situation:
Sir: Your Letter of this date to Mr. Harrison has been laid before me. On account of the very distressed situation of Monsr. de Antroche as represented by you, I have no objection to your permitting him to go to New York on parole, to return when called for. If he can effect his absolute exchange for the Officer intitled in regular course, It will be agreeable to me.
Chevalier D'anterroches remained in America for a long time afterward. On 30 January 1780 he married an American woman, Mary Van Der Poel (1758-1844) of Chatham Bridge, New Jersey. They settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1783 and started a family (eventually having ten children). In order to make their union official in the eyes of the French government and Roman Catholic Church, Louis Joseph and his wife Mary were remarried at the French Legation in the City of New York on 18 July 1787. But things were not well with the chevalier and his new family. As a French nobleman living a new life in a new land without position, recommendation, or assistance from friends or family, life was difficult. But he was not forgotten. The chevalier's mother, Jeanne Françoise, found out through the Marquis de Lafayette (her cousin) and the Comte de la Luzerne, that Louis Joseph was not only alive but settled in New Jersey. Elated, in 1783 she began a letter writing campaign with the designs of gaining communication with her son, relieve her son's burdens, and have him return to France. She was easily successful in the first, but the latter two would prove difficult. Throughout the 1780s she continually wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others, asking for their assistance and for their offer of "protection" for her son. On 18 September 1786, Comtesse D'anterroches decided to write to George Washington himself (George Washington Papers; the following is transcribed from a period translation of the Comtesse's letter made for Washington):
Fame has informed me that you are the friend of humanity—that your generous heart delights in doing good.—I take the liberty to claim your protection for the chevalier d'anterroches my son, who is settled in Elizabeth town, near New York . Although I have no right to make a request of this nature, which is altogether an idea of my own; yet whoever dares to accuse me of imprudence, has never experienced, as you have general, the force of sensibility.—If, from the feelings of a heart alive to the misfortunes of others, you deign to give my son access to you, he will himself have the honor to relate his history to you—a history painful and affecting to a soul so delicate as yours—you must have the goodness to desire him to come to you, because he is ignorant of my resolution to write to you; & that you may take an interest in him, I dare to assure you general that you will find him an engaging man, a comely man, & a man who can render himself beloved & esteemed;—you will be touched with his misfortunes & distresses, and the more, I dare say, as his birth is distinguished in this kingdom, as having descended from a family of military men who have borne high command—he bears a name well known both in church & state—the d'anterroches have from time immemorial held an elevated rank.—for these 12 years my son has groaned under the weight of misfortunes, & has thereby given me great pain—the time has appeared long to us both, & we have no prospect of terminating our sufferings unless you lend your aid—it requires an arm powerful as yours, general, to succor us—I trust in you who are as good as you are great—all the world admires you, & you have only to say the word to change our condition; I wait for that with the most lively impatience;—I already perceive general that the hours of affliction glide off more gently—but to pass them as those of prosperity, nature will not permit—alas! who can feel the sufferings of a child so poignantly as a mother—my soul, deeply wounded, knows no repose!—restore it to that tranquility which it has lost, & which I perceive is so necessary for it—you will make it completely happy if you comply with my earnest prayers—I will not enter into a detail of what concerns my son, he will do it himself if you will permit him;—permit him & give him an opportunity, & you shall be informed of every thing.—
Mr Otto in charge of affairs of France in New York has passed the highest encomiums upon his good behavior—he can give you, general, the same favorable account of him;—all the people of distinction who have seen him in your country speak of him in the same manner—I beseech you to interest yourself so far in him as to give him an existence, whether in America or in France—you can easily do it in either;—what would I not do myself to affect what I ask of you—if nothing would procure it but my life I would give that—although my husband, a good man, loves his son dearly, yet he is so oppressed by age that he is incapable of doing as he would—he tells me that he wishes him all happiness, & if he could obtain it he should partake of it with him—you have too much penetration not to see all the uneasiness which so long an absence & at so great a distance must have given his friends—you, general, can do what he would have you—you are powerful in your own country, & there is nothing at our court that would be refused you—your own genius furnishes resources—your penetrating eye discovers all—you will not suffer my son & his family to suffer longer in your latitude—being once informed of their situation. by applying to the court of France you may obtain for him a curative employment which will make him & his family easy—he will then be induced to return—& you will give a son to his mother, a citizen to his country, & enable a man to give aid & succor to his parents who have much need of it; all this is worthy of you—take the trouble of conferring with him—I entreat you to complete my wishes (& the time is not yet arrived in which I shall have the sweet satisfaction of seeing my son) by succoring & supporting him—&, when he may come to you, by showing him this letter which is no equivocal proof of my tender solicitude for him—and may your benefactions cause the tears of Joy & gratitude to flow instead of those of sorrow which we have shed for 12 years past—I have the honor to be with respect, general,
your very humble & obedient
Servant de chaunac comtisse
My address is the comtisse de chaunac d'anterroches at her house at Puydarnac near Tulle in Limousin by Paris. If you do me the honor of answering this, I request you to address to Mr von Bischen of Nantes in Brittany—a City of France—he is an eminent merchant, a man of merit, & will take care of it for me—
18th Septr 1786—
Less than two months later, Comtesse D'anterroches wrote another heartrending plea to his Excellency (George Washington Papers; the following is transcribed from a period translation of the Comtesse's letter made for Washington):
I have already done myself the honor of writing to you in behalf of an unfortunate son, who resides at Elizabeth Town near N. York—I ardently beg your protection for him General.—suffer a child to be recommended to you by a distressed mother—in pity, grant him your countenance.—His family, out of their good will towards him, have thought of granting him a small establishment in America, or if he will return to France, a pension—provided that he can come I do not know but it will be best—the objects here may excite his powers.—they (his family) will think better of him, & I believe he will gain much by being in his country; with your recommendations he would be received by them with open arms, & if you will take the trouble to recommend him to our court he will be very happy.—You have a soul so sensible that I do not now despair of your granting my request—a great man, as you are, loves, & seeks occasions to do good.—to give a son to his mother, a citizen to his country is an action worthy of you—But how shall I be reunited to this son?—that embarrasses & disturbs me—lighten this weight—reunite him with his wife & children—I address myself to heaven for you, with eyes bathed in tears of gratitude & with the most ardent & tender vows—change; change my days of tribulation & anguish into days of calmness & serenity—I have no hope but in you, & I do not doubt but you will do every thing to gratify my desires.
I imagine that the sending him a sum of money to buy goods will lead him to think of himself—
I have the honor to be with respect—General.
yr most hble & obedt Sert
de chaunac comptess d'anterroches
Novr 16th 1786.
PS I would not however take upon myself to bring my son over here unless it is perfectly agreeable to him.—I ask for your protection for him General—you can do every thing in America, in France, & every where.—
Washington acted by enclosing both letters in a packet to Henry Knox, then living in New York, accompanied by the following letter (George Washington Papers):
Mount Vernon, March 8, 1787.
My dear Sir: Will you permit me to give you the trouble of making an indirect, but precise enquiry, into the alligations of the enclosed letters. I flatter myself that from the vicinity of Elizabeth Town to New York, and the constant intercourse between the two, you will be able to do it without much trouble. It is but little in my power to afford the pecuniary aids required by the writer; but if the facts as set forth be true, I should feel very happy in offering my mite, and rendering any services in my power on the occasion. Be so good, when you write to me on this subject, to return the letters and translations....
As expected, Knox was quick to act for his former commander and proceeded to gather intelligence on the chevalier. His response was as follows (George Washington Papers; the following transcript has modified Knox's manuscript only in so far as Knox often randomly combined words located adjacent to one another for no apparent reason):
New York 26th March 1787.
I have attended my dear sir to your request respecting the Chevalier D'anterroches, and the following sketch is the result.
He is the son of a general officer in the french service old and infirm; His uncle is the bishop of Condom, rich, and miserly; besides which he is a relation of the Marquis dela Fayette. In the early part of his Life his father designed him for the church, and forced him to enter on studies necessary for the profession—as this business was his horror, he fled to England and enlisted as a soldier, but afterward became an officer, by what means does, not appear, but he came out to canada with Genl Burgoyne in the year 1776 or 1777, and was taken prisoner at Saratoga. On information that France had decidedly espoused the cause of America he left the service of England—whether he refused to be exchanged, resigned, or the precise means of leaving the british service I cannot ascertain—
Some four or five years ago, he was at Chatham, Morris County, in the house of a Mr Pool, where he fell sick—Mr Pool is a shoemaker, his daughter was extremely attentive to the sick chevalier, who testified his gratitude on his recovery by marrying her—Two or three children are the fruits of the marriage. He lives on a small farm near Elizabeth Town, and is in great distress, but is in constant expectation of being relieved by his relations. His character is unexceptionable, and he is spoken of as a deserving man.
My own opinion is that nothing could more effectually please him than placing him in the French service—But his wife and children seems to be an insuperable bar to that idea—perhaps were you to write to the Marquis dela Fayette a letter calculated for him to show to the persons of influence, the poor chevalier might obtain some office in the customs, in the islands, or vice consul of these states by which he might maintain his family—I know of nothing in the gift of the United States at present which would relieve him—were it practicable for him to enter the service in a military line, the payments are so deficient that his family would starve—
I am my dear sir
Your respectfully & affectionate friend
and very humble servt
His Excellency General Washington.
Despite all the attention, almost three years went by without, apparently, any material resolution to the chevalier's situation. Finally, the chevalier himself wrote a letter of introduction to Washington, expressing his perilous predicament (George Washington Papers):
Newyork February 6th 1790—
if I take the liberty to address myself to your Excellency also I never had the honor of being introduced to you, believe that necessity alone can force me to do it, and not the want of delicacy. My own interest and of course that of my wife and children, obliges me to become troublesome to you; but your well known goodness, gives me leave to hope that you will excuse me. If you will condescend Sir, to peruse the letters here inclosed, of Mr le duke de Harcourt, of Mr le Marquis and la Marquise de Lafayette and of my uncle the Bishop of Condom, one of the deputy's to the general assembly of france, who hath taken care of me since I was seven years old, and by his kindness hath enabled me to become a naturalized citizen of the united states, if you condescend Sir, to peruse the above mentioned Letters, your excellency will easely perceive that I have in france, friends and relations who endevour to make me comfortable, and the hope of success out to make me avoid all occasions that may create jealousys which may be detrimental to me. you are Sir, the Marquis de Lafayette's friend, and I flatter myself of having the honor of his friendship likewise; every assistance I receive from my family is sent by his means, and his goodness to me hath made him long since one of my protectors. I shall have the honor of relating to your excellency the Subject on which I write. I have bought in Elizabeth Town (the place of my residence these seven years passed) a farm Two years ago, and made the payment wanting few pounds only, But I owe elsewhere Two Hundred and fifty pounds, york currency, which sum I must pay before I leave this city; the want of that Money obliging my creditors to prosecute me for the same, if I do not comply. my Note of Hand is now in the Hands of an Attorney of Law, and if not redeemed, hath orders to arrest me. That idea alone, Sir, distress me. I have visited last year my Native Country and have returned much pleased with the treatment I received there; my father 78 years old hath pass'd his words to me that in a very short time, he should send me, (instigated by my friends) part of his property which the law grants me after he is no more, on his promise to me, on that of a Sister nominated last year abbess by the king, and on the assistance I receive from Time to Time, from my uncle the Bishop, I can I believe borrow the above mentioned sum with confidancy, of paying the same very soon. I know of very few persons able to assist me in so precarious a moment, and I should be affrid that if the favour was granted to me by them they should relate my present situation, in Europe, to my detriment. I shall consider myself very happy if, your excellency desire some of your Aids to inquire into my private character, be convinced without flattery that it will turn out to my advantage, and will procure me the kindness which my Mother the Countess D'anterroches desired of you for me by letters to you, the Marquis delafayette is to have the honor of writing to you on the same subject, if not yet wrote; and now I ask your protection, and assistance Sir, convinced that my interest, character abroad, and future credit shall suffer if denied to me.
Be pleased to honor me with a line of answer, that I may know my fate; I shall waite for the same with the greatest impatience, and if the greatest favor asked by me is granted I shall follow the plan that you will be so good as to prescribe me.
I have the honor to be with the greatest respect.
Most obedient and
Your excellency most humble servant
Le chr D'anterroches—
at the widow winants Elizabeth
Town farry House
His excellency the president of the united states
Although it's difficult to identify exactly what, something was apparently set in motion for the chevalier's relief, as expressed in this letter from him to William Jackson, President Washington's principal secretary (George Washington Papers):
Saturday after Noon [13 February 1790]
I went into the Jerseys wednesday after Noon last, and returned on the day following; I did myself the honor to address you in French, immediately after my arrival in the city; to acquaint you that I was to accept, with the greatest gratitude, the offer which his Excellency was soo good as to make me by your favor; and that I expected that before long I should have it in my power to return it. I was begging your intercession at the same Time for his Excellencys protection in france, concerning the office my friends, there, are asking for me, from the government; convinced that it will produce the best of consequences twards it, and by that mean, place me in a situation to bring up my children in a descent manner in this country, my fondness for them not suffering me to trust them abroad in my parents care. They are Born in a free country I wish them to be Brought up, to die for it if necessity requires it, and my ambition is to make good citysens of them and not wealthy ones. Be so kind as to honor me with your answer as soon as convenient of this letter do not meet the poor fate of my former one, and I have the honor to be with respect
your most obedient and
Le chr D'anterroches
It may be through the interposition of President Washington's influence that Louis Joseph was made an adjutant general to the army commanded by General Henry Lee during the fall 1794 expedition to Western Pennsylvania in suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion. Letters from Louis Joseph confirm his presence in Elizabeth through at least 1801, but he eventually returned to France, apparently without his family. He died in Paris in 1814.
Chevalier D'anterroches remained on the officer lists of the 62nd Regiment well after the Revolutionary War. Despite the fact that his name appeared on the List of British Officers Prisoners with the Americans Exchanged since 25th Octr 1780 (the list was dated 24 January 1781), 1782 paylists record that he was returned as the ensign of Captain George Marlay's battalion company and still officially considered a “prisoner of war in America” (very few other officers of the regiment were so listed by that late date). He of course had no intentions of rejoining the regiment, and was eventually listed as a supernumerary officer. By 1786, his name ceased to be carried on the rolls.
Louis Joseph came from a long line of prominent French military and Catholic church officials. According to an anecdote published in The Origin and Services of the Coldstream Guards: from the formation of the regiment under General Monck, to the Battle of Waterloo, by Colonel Daniel MacKinnon (London: 1833), his own father was the famous "you fire first" French lieutenant of the Gardes Françaises at the 11 May 1745 Battle of Fontenoy:
[During the Battle of Fontenoy], the officers of the English Guards, when in presence of the enemy, saluted the French by taking off their hats. The Count de Chambanne and Duke de Biron, who were in advance, returned the salute, as did all the officers of the French Guards. Lord Charles Hay, Captain of the English Guards, cried, "Gentlemen of the French Guards, fire." The Count d'Anteroche, Lieutenant of Grenadiers, replied, in a loud voice, "Gentlemen, we never fire first; fire yourselves." The English then commenced a running fire in divisions, so that one battalion made a discharge, afterwards another, during which the first reloaded. Nineteen officers of the [French] Guards fell by the first discharge. Messieurs de Clisson, de Ligney, de la Peyre, and ninety-five soldiers, were killed, and two hundred and eighty-five were wounded...
The Battle of Fontenoy
by Félix Henri Emmanuel Philippoteaux (1815-84), 1873
The Victoria and Albert Museum
Louis Joseph's uncle, Alexandre-César D'anterroches (1719-1793), the Bishop of Condom, ended up being the last bishop of Condom. Consecrated on 5 June 1763, he served his diocese as Bishop from 1763 through 1792. In 1792, he was forced into an English exile by French Revolutionaries. He died less than one year later, on 28 January 1793, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Pancras Church, London. Louis Joseph's elder brother, Jean Blaise, Vicomte D'anterroches, a lieutenant marshal of France, was likewise forced into exile by the French Revolutionaries. He too died in London, and was buried near his Bishop uncle at St. Pancras Church, London, in 1798. Upon the deaths of his father and older brother, the title of comte passed to Louis Joseph (Jean Blaise died without male issue). Later in life, Louis Joseph commonly used the Anglo-American equivalent of the title, “Count,” which appears on a memorial stone in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Louis Joseph's given name is sometimes misidentified as “Henry” by historians unaware of this officer's biography who use James Phinney Baxter's The British Invasion from the North (Albany, NY: 1887) as a source for it. His name is often given as "Joseph Louis" despite his own established signature (one of his sons was named Joseph Louis). His surname was often wrongfully recorded in 18th-century sources (especially those of the British Army), and can be found as “Danterroche,” “Anterroches” and myriad other variants. Contemporarily, his mother spelled the family name as "d'anterroches" (it should be noted that she rarely capitalized any letter, including those of other people, places, or at the beginning of sentences). Today, the family uses the spelling "d'Anterroches."
Our thanks to Mr. Joseph Pratt of Connecticut, a great-great-great-grandson of Louis Joseph, Comte D'anterroches through his third son (eighth child) François Loyac D'anterroches, who was the last male relative in the United States to bear the family name, for his generous sharing of D'anterroches genealogy and biographical information.